British scientist’s have managed to coax the microbe to produce diesel replica hydrocarbons by engineering the genome of Escherichia (E) coli using genes from a number of sources. The team genetically altered E-coli bacteria in order to convert yeast extract and sugar into long chained hydrocarbons (aka diesel molecules), according to a statement reported via the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, bringing about a whole new look at petroleum engineering.
John Love of the University of Exeter and lead author of the study in the UK told BBC News that instead of coming up with a replacement fuel like befouls, they created a substitute fossil fuel. Their goal was to create a fuel that wouldn’t even be noticeable to consumers, fuel retailers and car manufacturers; it would just basically become another component in the fuel manufacturing chain.
The research included taking a strain of E. coli that typically transforms sugar into fat and spliced its genome DNA sequences out of a number of sources that included Photorhabdus luminescens (an insect pathogen), Cinamomum camphora (a camphor tree), Bacillus subtilis (a soil microbe) and Nostoc punctiforme (a cyanobacterium). At the moment, because bacteria are yeast extract and sugar, the petroleum replica hydrocarbons produced would be more costly than those produced from naturally occurring oil. Eventually the British researchers hope to discover a way to adjust the bacteria’s diet to organic and natural agricultural waste or sewage.
According to Scientific American, Love said that the biggest challenge is to build on the process and produce synthetic diesel molecules in high volumes, at a low cost in order to make it a feasible substitute for fuels manufactured from fossil sources. In addition, they want to make biofuels that can be used with existing engines with the goal being to eventually make petroleum engineering eco-friendly.